As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been listening to various versions of the tune “Tangerine,” a song that came to the attention of my generation via the 1975 version by the Salsoul Orchestra. Pulled from the orchestra’s first, self-titled album, a single of the tune went to No. 18 in early 1976.
The song came to mind earlier this week when I followed a link to that YouTube video provided by jb of The Hits Just Keep On Comin’. As I listened, I nodded in recognition, knowing that I most likely heard the single by the Salsoul Orchestra in early 1976, but I had an inkling that I’d heard the song before that, in a much slower tempo. So I went digging.
The song, as I also noted yesterday, was written by Johnny Mercer and Victor Schertzinger for a 1942 movie. In that movie, The Fleet’s In, the song was performed by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra with vocals by Bob Eberly and Helen O’Connell.
(I don’t care much for Eberly’s crooning, but among at least some singers, that was the style in vogue at the time. On the other hand, given the aesthetic of the times, I thought O’Connell nailed it. And although this arrangement didn’t give him much room to work with, Dorsey could play.)
Since then, “Tangerine” has been covered frequently. The listings at Second Hand Songs and at ASCAP show more than 140 performers and groups who have recorded the song. The listing at ASCAP isn’t searchable by year, but the earliest version of “Tangerine” listed at Second Hand Songs is the 1941 recording by Vaughn Monroe and His Orchestra; the most recent recording listed is the 2007 version by saxophonists Harry Allen and Joe Temperley with John Bunch, Greg Cohen and Jake Hanna on the album Cocktails for Two. Among the performers whose names I recognized were Ferrante & Teicher, Tony Bennett, Dave Brubeck , Harry Connick Jr., Al Caiola, Dr. John (who covered the tune on Mercernary, his 2006 album of songs by Johnny Mercer), Stéphane Grappelli, George Shearing, Lawrence Welk, Bobby Troup, Peter Nero and Toots Thielemans.
I’ve heard a few of those. I like Bennett’s version, but I don’t care for Connick’s. What I heard of Dr. John’s take on the tune (and Mercernary has gone on my want list) was good. Brubeck released numerous live versions of “Tangerine,” and I think the one I heard was from a 1958 performance in Copenhagen, Denmark. I wasn’t blown away, but that says more about me and my relationship with 1950s jazz than about anything else. I do like Grapelli’s 1971 version and, of course, I like the version I posted yesterday by Eliane Elias. And one of the best among the covers I found is the version that Frank Sinatra did for his 1962 album, Sinatra and Swingin’ Brass.
Still, I knew that none of those was the version of “Tangerine” that I’d heard first, and I kept scanning the lists at Second Hand Songs and ASCAP until I finally noticed a name that made sense. And that brought me back to the languid, tropical version of “Tangerine” that I first heard in 1965 or so when I listened to my copy of Whipped Cream & Other Delights by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass.
Video by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass replaced November 11, 2013.